Legion baseball: Alexandria exits state tournamentThe local team finished 1-2 at Hibbing
The Fat Daddy’s Alexandria American Legion baseball team turned a lot of heads while playing a daunting schedule at the state tournament in Hibbing last week.
Alexandria wanted a chance to play the best teams in Minnesota and it got that last Thursday and Friday. Second ranked Eastview sent the local nine home on Friday but not before they got a scare after building an early lead. That came after Alexandria kicked off the tournament with a 10-6 loss to fifth-ranked Excelsior on Thursday afternoon and a 6-3 win over fourth-ranked Lakeville North earlier in the day.
“I think we gained a lot of respect from other programs as we received lots of positive words from other coaches and fans,” head coach Kevin Engebretson said. “We heard from a few college coaches and state directors that we were the buzz of the tournament.”
Alexandria did that by proving it could play with the best teams in the state while in Hibbing. Dalton Leuschke had a lot to do with that. If college coaches didn’t know his name before last week, they likely do now. The Alexandria shortstop had three home runs at the tournament, one that sent his team home a walk-off winner and another that tied things up late.
The latter of those two came after Alexandria fell behind 11-2 through four innings against Eastview.
Alexandria chipped away by scoring in each of the last five innings. The rally started with two outs in the fifth. Mark Whiting reached on an error before Parker Giroux walked and Ross Thompson drove in a run with an RBI single. Colin Erickson then delivered the big hit of the inning when he sent a double into the gap to plate two runs. Shawn Krueger followed with an RBI single before Eastview finally recorded the final out of the inning.
Three more runs over the next two innings put Alexandria within three heading into the top of the eighth. Thompson started another rally with two outs by doubling to the gap. Erickson followed with a walk to set the stage for Leuschke, who was coming off a solo home run in his previous plate appearance. This time, he sent a fastball over the left field wall for a three-run shot that sent his dugout into a frenzy.
“Hitting a home run there was just incredible with everything else going on,” Engebretson said. “Eastview must have been stunned for just a moment as we completed yet another comeback.”
The momentum that Alexandria had lasted less than half an inning as Eastview responded with five runs in the bottom of the inning. The scoring started with an unusual play that saw two runs score on a perfectly executed squeeze bunt.
The three runs Eastview added after that proved to be the difference as Alexandria scored three times in the top of the ninth. Erickson extended the game with an RBI single that brought Leuschke to the plate representing the go-ahead run. Eastview’s Jack McDevitt was not going get burnt by Leuschke again as he walked him on four pitches, which brought in a run and made it a 17-15 game. The rally ended there, though, as McDevitt got a strikeout in the next at-bat to secure the win.
“They weren’t going to give [Dalton] anything good to hit,” Engebretson said. “He was swinging a hot bat and was really squaring everything up.”
Leuschke’s day ended with five RBIs, two walks and two runs scored. Thompson also had five RBIs in the game after going 4-for-6 with a double and a triple.
Alexandria was in a similar situation against Excelsior on Thursday afternoon. The fifth-ranked team from the metro built a 10-0 lead before Alexandria responded with six unanswered runs in the late innings.
Five of those came in the eighth when Alexandria put together another two-out rally. Erickson got things going with a double before Chris Fields, Luc Beireis, Giroux and Thompson all followed with singles.
“You could see Excelsior getting a little uncomfortable there in the late innings,” Engebretson said.
That’s as close as Alexandria got, though, as hard throwing lefty Robb Miller closed out the game by striking out four of the five guys he faced.
Lakeville North 3
Leuschke’s strong tournament showing got started with his biggest hit of the three games in the 6-3 win over Lakeville North on Thursday.
His three-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth broke a 3-3 tie and made a winner out of Erickson on the mound. Giroux started the rally with a sharp single to leadoff the inning. Two batters later, Erickson drew a walk to bring up Leuschke with the winning run in scoring position and one out. He got his pitch and sent a hanging change up over the left field wall.
“I actually talked to Dalton before his last at-bat and told him to hit a home run, jokingly,” Engebretson said. “If anything, it probably just loosened him up. When he hit it and rounded third, the look on his face was priceless.”
That salvaged a strong performance on the mound from Erickson. The lefty battled through all nine innings, scattering six hits and five walks, but allowing just two earned runs. He struck out seven.
“Colin didn’t have his best stuff,” Engebretson said. “But over the last couple of years, he has learned that he can still pitch effectively and be pretty good without his best stuff. His teammates needed him to get tough and he did just that.”
That’s an attitude that has resonated throughout this entire team this summer. Alexandria fought back in a number of games while playing another loaded schedule. They finished with a 17-4 record overall, with wins over top-ranked and eventual state champion Eden Prairie and fourth-ranked Lakeville North.
“I couldn’t be any more proud of the way our guys played at the state tournament and also throughout the entire summer,” Engebretson said. “We had a chance to play against the top five ranked teams in the state of Minnesota…that doesn’t happen very often to very many teams. We were able to beat two of them and hang right there with the other three.
“We work hard every summer to give our kids these opportunities, to compete against some very good programs and to play at a high level come tournament time…more important than anything else, all of the guys now have a huge stack of memories that they can have and share forever. I would say that this summer was a very big success for everyone involved.”
ALEXANDRIA 002 042 133 – 15 18 3
EASTVIEW 503 300 15X – 17 18 3
ALEXANDRIA PITCHING – Nate Nelson – 1IP, 4H, 5R, 4ER, 1BB, 0SO; Jordan Hirsch – 3IP, 7H, 6R, 6ER, 2BB, 2SO; Cody Larson – L, 4IP, 7H, 6R, 3ER, 4BB, 1SO
ALEXANDRIA HITTING – Parker Giroux – 3-5, BB, 3 runs; Ross Thompson – 4-6, 2B, 3B, 2 runs, 5 RBI; Colin Erickson – 2-5, 2B, BB, 2 runs, 3 RBI; Dalton Leuschke – 2-4, 2 HR, 2 BB, 2 runs, 5 RBI; Shawn Krueger – 2-6, RBI; Tyler Iverson – 1-5, 2B, 1 run; Chris Fields – 2-5; Luc Beireis – BB, 2 runs, RBI; Mark Whiting – 2-4, 3 runs
EXCELSIOR 002 025 100 – 10 15 2
ALEXANDRIA 000 000 150 – 6 13 2
ALEXANDRIA PITCHING – Krueger – L, 5 1/3IP, 11H, 9R, 7ER, 2BB, 0SO; Eric Carlsen – 3 2/3IP, 4H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 1SO
ALEXANDRIA HITTING – Giroux – 1-4, BB, 2 RBI; Thompson – 2-5, RBI; Erickson – 3-5, 2B, 1 run; Krueger – 1-5; Iverson – 2-5, 2B, 2 runs, RBI; Fields – 1-2; Beireis – 1-3, BB, 1 run, RBI; Whiting – 1-3, 1 run, RBI; Carlsen – 1-3, 1 run
LAKEVILLE NORTH 001 001 000 – 3 6 2
ALEXANDRIA 000 210 003 – 6 13 3
ALEXANDRIA PITCHING – Erickson – W, 6H, 3R, 2ER, 5BB, 7SO
ALEXANDRIA HITTING – Giroux – 3-5, 1 run; Thompson – 1-2, 1 run; Erickson – 2-4, BB, 1 run; Leushcke – 2-5, HR, 1 run, 4 RBI; Krueger – 1-4, 1 run; Iverson – 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Beireis – BB; Carlsen – 1-4; Whiting – 1-4, 1 run